Election Analysis

The main result of this election has been a tremendous success for Bibi Netanyahu.  Not only did he survive the main issue of this election campaign, which was to defeat him, but he gained votes for Likud and from the right in general.  Likud went from 30 seats in 2015 to 35 now. Although this was also a victory for Benny Gantz, who came from nowhere politically and equaled Likud’s votes.

Nevertheless, he did have a coalition in the Blue & White Party with Yair Lapid, whose party Yesh Atid had 11 seats in the previous Knesset, but they failed to unseat Netanyahu.Instead of the center drawing votes from Likud and the right, as they had hoped, they actually drew votes mainly from the left.  So Labor, running as the Zionist Union went from 24 seats, to 6 and Meretz from 5 to 4.  If you add the difference, that is 19, plus Yesh Atid’s 11 you get 30 seats, so they did a little better than just that.

Not all the right-wing parties did uniformly well, for example Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s New Right Party did very poorly, partly because people saw them as manipulative, dropping their old party and its members for a new one of their own.  And Zehut of Moshe Feiglin also failed to surpass the threshold.  But, the new Union of the Right (UR) did reasonably well with 5 seats.

So Netnyahu’s right-wing coalition with the two religious parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, Kulanu and the UR, as well as Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitanu, who got 5  is likely to give him a coalition of 65, or possibly 66 when all the soldier’s votes are counted.  This is better than he did last time and will make him the longest serving PM in Israel’s history, longer even than David Ben Gurion.  The main complaint against him was that he was corrupt and may be indicted by the Attorney General.  But, he could also pass a law exempting him from prosecution while in office, as they have in several other countries, for example France.  This result is good for Pres. Trump’s policy of containing Iran and also for a more forthright policy of Israel towards the Palestinians, who are never going to come to terms with Israel, so Israel might as well go ahead and finally decide the issues unilaterally. Under Netanyahu now I hope we do.

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Election Results

With ca. 97% of the votes counted, the outcome is not quite what it appeared to be in the exit poll projections.  Both major parties, Benny Gantz’ Blue-White Party and Netanyahu’s Likud are at 35 votes even. But, of the smaller parties reaching between 5-10 votes each, the majority are right-wing and will help Netanyahu to form a government with a coalition estimated at 66 votes.

So although both sides initially claimed victory, and in effect Gantz did very well as a newcomer to equal Netanyahu, and this tends to indicate some fatigue with Netanyahu and his indictments, nevertheless, when the chips are down, the rightward shift of the Israeli electorate once again gave Netanyahu a slim majority. Note that although some have called this a far-right coalition, it is really not much different than before, basically the country is split, with a slight tendency towards the right. Now President Reuven Rivlin must decide who to ask to form the Government on the basis of the final vote and the advice of the Party chiefs.

Some interesting results of the election, the Labour Party that was once the major party in Israel is now reduced to the status of a small party with one-digit representation, say 9 votes.  So the shift of their former voters to the center is clear.  The Arab Parties that had a strong coalition in the last election, were split in this election and so gained fewer seats, only ca. 6-9.  The small religious parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, both gained 6-9 seats and are key to Netanyahu forming his coalition.  On the right, the New Right Party of Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked that was expected to do well, did not do so, and they might not be able to overcome the threshold to gain any seats.  But, the other small new right-wing party the Union of the Right-Wing may get 5-9 seats, aiding Netanyahu’s coalition.

It is reported that Netanyahu is already in negotiations to form his coalition, but things are not quite firmed yet, so there will be a short delay while the reality sinks in.  Gantz realizes he will be in the opposition, not what a former general likes.  And Netanyahu will probably be back in power for a record fifth time.  The more things change the more they are the same.

Preliminary Election Results

Today I voted in the Israeli election.  It gives me great satisfaction to say that.  For the first time the number of Jewish voters exceeded six million, a significant number.  The Jewish people is able to determine its destiny in its own land.  But, there are many considerations that complicate this election, as in any election.

This is written of course before the results are in.  If the voter turnout is high that is likely to help the front-runner Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party, and all during the last days of the campaign Netanyahu has been pleading with his supporters to come out and vote and not believe that their victory is in the bag.  So far the turnout (currently at 4 pm at 36%) has been within 1% of the last election in 2015.  This would tend to indicate that Likud should do well. By contrast, the main rivals to Netanyahu, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid and their center left Blue and White Party might not be doing so well.  Note that turnout in the Arab sector is very low, ca. 10% so far, which reduces the likelihood that an Arab Party will exceed the threshold of 3.25% of the total votes.  Which small parties (out of a total of 40!) and how many seats they achieve, will make a huge difference in the chess game that becomes the maneuvering to actually form a new coalition government.  In the end President Reuven Rivlin will ask the leader of the largest bloc to form the government.

After 10 pm when the polls have closed the exit polls project that the Blue-White Party has a narrow lead over Likud, the three major polls give them 37 seats to Likud’s 36, 34 and 36.  Nevertheless Gantz has proclaimed that he is the winner!  The fact that any newcomer to Israeli politics could even equal Netanyahu who has been in power for 10 years is in itself a victory.  On the other hand, Netanyahu has counter-claimed that the right-wing coalition of Likud plus some smaller right wing parties has won, note that he did not claim victory for himself.  But, these are preliminary projections of exit polls, so we must wait until tomorrow for the actual votes to be counted and published.  Then the President must take the advice of all the Party chiefs who have been elected in order to decide who to ask to form a government.  If the blocs are as close as projected there might be pressure for both sides to form a unity government, but where Netanyahu would come in this scenario remains to be seen.  Keep tuned.

My Trip Summary

I have just returned from a three week trip that took me to California, where I stayed with my son Simon and his wife Sharon in Livermore in the Bay area (14.5 hr direct flight).  It was a welcome relaxing time.  Then we drove down to Los Angeles and had a cruise with my two grand-daughters, Shoshana from CA and Liora from Israel, although she is currently working in Florida.  The 7-day cruise was to the Mexican coast and we visited Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo St. Lucas.  It was very nice and all you could eat, although I was careful.

In Puerto Vallarta I bought Indian artifacts made by the Huichol Indians, who have a mythology based on the Sun and the Moon cohabiting during eclipses, and producing humans.  Its as good a theory as any.  In Mazatlan we went to a Salsa project in a resort, and I enjoyed a swim (the weather was excellent, but the water in the pool on board was too cold).  In Cabo we toured around, but missed a swim with the dolphins.

In Washington DC, I was hosted by my friend Frank Portugal, who works at Catholic University of America as Head of Biotechnology.  He gave me a tour of his facility and we went on a tour of the huge magnificent Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  There are many chapels devoted to Mary with the baby Jesus, where they tell you about the many times peasant children saw images of Mary, incredible.  They also show you the shrine to St. Cuthbert the pederast, the founder of the Catholic child abuse section (Ok, that’s a joke).

In London, I was hosted by my friend Barry Garfield, who prefers to remain anonymous.  My son Simon was also able to be with us while on his way to work in France.  We had a great dinner with family and friends.  The next day we traipsed across southern England to visit my sister in Rayleigh, Essex.  This is where the Normans built their first castle when they conquered England after the invasion of 1066, but it no longer exists.  Finally, we visited my friend Neil Davis in his wonderful apartment overlooking the pond in Hampstead Heath, and had a great lunch in Hampstead village. Altogether a great trip, but I felt I had to return soon to relieve Miriam, who has been visiting my wife Naomi every day in my place. 

 

 

 

The Israeli Election

In most polls PM Netanyahu and his center-right Likud Party is running neck and neck with the Blue-White coalition party of former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and his partner Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid (There is a future) Party.  They are projected to win ca. 29-30 seats each in the Knesset at the election on April 9, with B&W slightly ahead.  But, overall the center right has more votes than the center left, due to coalition with many smaller parties, and so should be able to form the next government, aside from any external issues, such as Netanyahu being indicted for crimes such as corruption by the Israeli Attorney General.

However, Netanyahu injected a new and important issue into the campaign when he stated yesterday that if elected he will annex to Israel those parts of the West Bank in which Israelis have major settlements.  This statement is clearly designed to take votes away from the small far right parties.  I strongly approve of this policy, since in international law the only sovereign successor of the British Mandate, namely Israel, has the right to inherit all the Land previously occupied by the British.  Furthermore, this move should have been made years ago, and once done will preclude all spurious claims by Palestinian Arabs to a State in this area, thus resolving the dispute.   Where Israel has annexed previous Land in Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, these have become integral parts of the State of Israel, and this should be the case with areas of the West Bank (Judah and Shomron) that are inhabited by Israelis.  These areas were assigned to Israeli control under the Oslo Accords agreed with the Palestinians in 1993/5.  This will presumably exclude the areas of the 7 cities of the Palestine Authority where ca. 99% of the West Bank Arab population in fact live.

It will be very interesting to see how this new election promise will affect the polling results.  Netanyahu is the only capable Israeli leader who could carry through this new policy.  It is somewhat akin to the promise by Pres. Trump to build a Wall along the Mexican border, not many politicians could have carried this through and it certainly garnered him many votes.  I see the two issues as parallel significant crises for the two countries, the immigration of illegal Mexicans into the US and the control by violent Palestinian factions of areas adjacent to major Israeli settlements.  By taking decisive action these leaders both represent and lead public opinion on these critical issues.

Shattering Illusions: Israel and the Dramatic Changes in the Middle East

The dramatic changes that have been occurring in the Middle East have exposed many firmly held views to critical scrutiny. Many illusions are being shattered by the emerging reality.  This is based on a talk entitled “Israel and the Dramatic Changes in the Middle East” that I gave at Temple Beth Emek in Livermore, CA, in March.

  1. The Palestinians are important.  The Palestinians have no army, no air force, no navy, and no effective organization as a state.  They are ineffectual and maximally corrupt.  Billions of aid dollars have been stolen by their leadership.  One must feel sorry for their self-induced state. The Palestinians don’t count.  All they can do is use terrorism against Israelis.  The sympathy and actions of BDS will not help them.
  2. The Palestinian problem must be solved before the Arab world can make peace with Israel.  This is the accepted view, but current events tend to support my contention that the reverse is true, namely that the Arab States must make peace with Israel before the Palestinian problem can be resolved.  Thus, the leading Sunni Arab States realize that an alliance with Israel against their common enemy Shia Iran is very much more in their interests than any interest they might have in the Palestinians.  Also, the Palestinians are never likely to consider peace with Israel while they feel that they have the support of the Arab world.  The Arabs are losing patience and interest in the Palestinians, with their constant internal conflicts and extremism.
  3. A Two-State Solution is the only viable solution to the Middle East Conflict.  The only people who really believe in a Two-State solution for the Israel-Palestinian conflict are Western diplomats and liberals.  The Palestinians do not want it, neither Hamas nor Fatah, since to accept this would be to give up their total commitment to destroying Israel in order to gain control of all of what was Palestine.  Israelis don’t want it, because they know that to have a Palestinian mini-State adjacent to the Israeli heartland will result in the influx of all sorts of terrorists (Palestinian, al Qaeda, ISIS, etc.) that would result in constant warfare and death.  Who would be stupid enough to facilitate this?
  4. The Palestinians have many allies in the Arab world.  While the Arabs still give nominal political support for the Palestinian cause, they no longer are prepared (apart from Qatar and Iran, that is not Arab) to support it.  The Arab States fought not for Palestine against Israel, but for themselves.  No Arab State, from 1948 – 1982 had any plan or intention to establish a Palestinian State.  When they attacked in 1948 they each, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, had their own plans for conquest.  But, they were defeated.  They tried again in 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982, but failed miserably.  After that they gave up.  Only Syria and Iraq of the proximal Arab States remained possible threats to Israel, that was until the so-called “Arab Spring,” after which they imploded.
  5. Israel is an isolated country, surrounded by enemies.  No Arab State or combination of States pose any real military threat to Israel now, and they are certainly not going to attack for the Palestinians. Only Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah are any real military threat to Israel.  Israel is no longer isolated in the world, its current friends include the US, Brazil, Bulgaria, Poland, Chad, Rwanda, Greece, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Portugal, Germany, UK, Canada, Japan, etc. Israel is affluent, the shekel is one of the strongest currencies in the world and Israel has tangible assets with which to deal, including advanced agriculture, scientific innovation, cyber security and military capability.

Notwithstanding the prevalent view among self-deluded liberals and leftists, the Palestinian cause is a lost cause and Israel is becoming a stronger more stable and more powerful country all the time.

Flogging a Dead Horse

The response of many Democrats in Congress to the Mueller Report is both mystifying and self-destructive. They vary from “we need to see the full Report” to “there was definite evidence of Trump collusion with Russia. This after the Attorney General conclusively stated that No evidence of collusion was found, and that no further indictments are considered

Their faulure to accept at face value the results of an exhaustive study that cost m$25 over nearly 2 years and was initiated by the Democrats themselves on the flimsiest of evidence is a huge error in judgement. It shows they are poor losers.

They are now talking about more hearings. Let me remind you that apart from the Mueller probe there were both House and Senate hearings into Russian collusion. None of them found any evidence. If the Democrats launch more such hearings they will be flogging a dead horse or shooting themselves in the foot. Hopefully the electorate will suitably punish them at the next election.